Monday, December 26, 2011

3rd Seashore Nature Trail 50k Race Report

The 3rd annual Seashore Nature Trail 50k took place at First Landing State Park just outside Virginia Beach, VA on Saturday December 17th. My brother Pat and I were going to run this together. After running the Chicago Marathon together in October, he thought he'd get an ultra under his belt (in his LAST long race) while the distance was somewhat recent. No long (over 12) training runs for him since, and my running has been up and down the last 3 weeks. Were not really sure how this would go.

Where it began

Before the start
We arrived for packet/chip pickup at 7am for the 8am start and debated about tights or shorts. It was around 40° after a night of rain, with it staying in the 40's for the day, maybe some sun later. Definitely shorts and the weather turned out perfect! About time - but too bad I was not in condition to take advantage. So - chip, bib, bumper sticker, fleece vest all received quickly and we hung out for a bit, gathering our drop bag items. We'd leave this at an Aid Station we'd pass 4 times - at 5, 8, 20 and 23. There were additional aid stations at 12.5, 16 and 27.5.
Planned on stowing my jacket/gloves after 5 miles and that worked out well. (Ended up getting my gloves later on as my hands got cold on and off).

start/finish on road
And we're off (after a few pictures and leaving the drop bag in a truck)! I was not going out too fast, so we settled in as people moved ahead of us. We stayed in the last 30% of the runners all day, which was fine with us. The initial road section was short (maybe a mile) and towards the turn off onto the trail, I realized my hands were free. Huh? I Always run with a water bottle - even when I was running 5k's. I don't believe I just left it at the start!! Wow - what a mistake. I actually debated going back for it, but running 31 (and not 33) was enough for today. With Aid pretty close together, I would be ok, but just not what I'd prefer. We came upon an aid station for later in the race and I asked if anyone was in contact with the start and if they could ask about my bottle. Sure enough - at the 1st AS - it was there. Whew! Felt normal again. Not sure I'd ever run 5 miles without anything in my hands before.
Some long, flat sections

Panoramic of boardwalk/marshland

Few mud areas - easily avoided

So the course was very nice. Early on, I was already thinking this would be a good course/race to run again. Some gentle rollers, some flats (although the long flat straightaways were not my favorite). Pine straw, packed dirt, some boardwalk, thru marshlands and swampy areas - all great to run on/near. There was a "main" trail (Cape Henry) that we ran on, then do a side loop (King Fisher/White Loop), then an out and back on the main trail to a turnaround. We'd return the way we'd come and back near the start, take a different side trail loop (Bald Cypress & Osmanthius). Then do it all over again.
first of a number of Aid Stations
Aid Stations were, as expected, perfect. My typical stop consisted of refilling my water (if needed), maybe sipping some Gatorade, then grabbing M&M's, PB&J triangles, potato chips, pretzels, and small choc. chip cookies. Yum. I'd walk out eating and not start running until my hands/mouth were empty. One different thing I saw - the bag drop area had all the bags spread out on a tarp, so you could stand back and see your bag easily. Very organized.
More leftover water.
So we stayed a pretty slow/steady pace, not really knowing our speed, but assumed it was about 11min/mi based on the approximate AS mileages. Under 6:00 hr pace. Our goal of the day was, if we did not break 6, then to get me another PR (under 6:34). Early miles felt good - best I'd felt in 3 weeks with no leg issues, feeling pretty strong. We ran near some people on and off, but after 8-10 miles, it was mostly just us, even with ~250+ starters.
beautiful moss

Some gentle rollers
Nothing too serious thru the halfway point for either of us. We knew we'd slow down some. Did not expect it to be partially because of me or my right knee. Near the turnaround (~Mile 22), my knee quickly went from being slightly sore, to being very painful to run. Really, the only other time this had bothered me was almost a year ago around Mile 21 of the Harbison 50k. Why??? (Cold/cooler weather + slow running?) Until the finish, I could not run more than 100-200 yards of flat (could run downhill fine and felt nothing when I walked; we were walking the gentle uphills at this point). So strange. At this point, we were running for just over 4 hours, so we were still looking good for beating my previous best. 6 hrs was definitely out. Pretty much decided that my Mount Mitchell Challenge attempt was off (for Feb - more on that in another post)
Little bit of boardwalk
So the last 9 miles was run until it made me cringe, walk (where the pain disappeared instantly), then run again on any downhill or where I thought I could try it again. Our splits (according to my brother's Garmin after the fact) were mostly under 12 min/mi until mile 20 or so, then it became 13:15's or so. Once we came out of the last side trail loop, we knew we had a mile or so left, mostly on pavement. I tried running it in, but just couldn't - two short walk breaks, then I was ok and we ran to the finish side by side - finish time: 6:19:16!
The Goal

Picked up our finisher's medal (nothing special), paperweight (solid!) and a nice finisher's hat. Grabbed a few snacks, took a few photos, and we headed back home. Very happy to have done this with my brother - he did great. I can see doing this one again (Alone - as I said before - my brother is DONE with long runs!) if we come up for a visit in mid-December. I would recommend it to anyone.
Thank you to the Race Director (very detailed website/emails) and all the volunteers!!

2011 Course

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